Ilija Trojanow [ Bulgaria, Germany ]
The author, translator and publisher Ilija Trojanow was born in 1965 in Sofia, Bulgaria. In 1971 his family fled through Yugoslavia and Italy to the Federal Republic of Germany, and a year later moved to Nairobi in Kenya where Trojanow grew up, interrupted only by a three-year stay in Germany. After studying in Munich he founded the Kyrill-und-Method publishing house, later called Marino Verlag, which focuses on African literature.
His highly acclaimed début as a novelist was »Die Welt ist groß und Rettung lauert überall« (1996, tr: The World is Big and Safety Lurks Around the Corner). This family saga with an autobiographical background utilizes, in addition to socially critical elements, the author's fundamental motif and concern with exuberant joy in storytelling and varying moods: the portrayal of cultural heterogeneity not as a problem or a disaster, but as the normal state of affairs, as an opportunity or even a stroke of luck. Trojanow repeatedly and critically deals with his home country and its current situation. Years of research in Bulgaria led to his reportage »Hundezeiten« (1999, tr: Dog Ages), which was published in a revised version as »Die fingierte Revolution« (tr: The Sham Revolution) in 2006: a provocative confrontation with the old nomenclature, who have formed a new oligarchy behind a smoke screen of democracy. In his documentary film »Vorwärts und nie vergessen« (2007, tr: Forwards and Never Forget) he records conversations with former political prisoners, and many of his newspaper articles also deal with Bulgaria. The author's greatest literary success came with the novel »Der Weltensammler« (2006; Engl: »The Collector of Worlds«, 2008). In this book, Trojanow tackles in fictional form the British colonial officer and Orientalist Richard Francis Burton, an eccentric master of disguise who became familiar with numerous cultures and languages, translated »Tales of 1001 Nights« and the Kama Sutra, travelled to Mecca without being recognised and searched for the source of the White Nile. The perspective of this excessively curious adventurer is contrasted with the attitudes of the indigenous people. A complex panorama of foreign cultures thus emerges, replete with sensual imagery and differentiated reflections which seamlessly merge into contemporary debates. His most recent novel, EisTau (tr. IceMelt, 2011) is dedicated to the glaciologist, Zeno, as well as the grandeur of nature and its endangerment.
Ilija Trojanow has been awarded many prizes, including the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair and the Berlin Prize for Literature. He was writer in residence in Mainz, Heiner Müller Guest Professor in Berlin and lectured on Poetry in Tübingen. Trojanow currently lives and works in Vienna.
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